This weekend, I read a lot about a crowd of protesters who ignored the warnings of authorities and made an unauthorized, no-permit journey across the water. I heard about a man who was wrongfully killed because "law" wasn't applied judiciously and "justice" knew no restraint. There was buzz about dissenting voices who didn't just believe in reforming the system, but in radical transformation.
This was not an Occupy March. This was not a vigil for a boy in a hoodie. This was a holiday weekend.
Passover and Easter are among the holiest days in their respective religions. At these sacred moments, we retell stories that animate our beliefs and have driven our communities for centuries. We recount the Exodus, in which the Israelites followed a man with a violent criminal past who had challenged authority. We recount the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, in which a man was made into a criminal by a system corruptly structured to criminalize him.
Both of these holidays ask us to repeat the stories and to learn from them. What I learned was that the Israelites would have been wrapped up in orange police netting if not pepper-sprayed, and that the apostles would have all been held over a long weekend until a Monday arraignment.
The Supreme Court would have approved strip-searching Moses. The NYPD definitely would have stopped-and-frisked Jesus. And both men would have been the subject of undercover surveillance as security state agents infiltrated their organizations to investigate radical behavior. No doubt a young conservative would have tried to catch an apostle on tape answering some gotcha questions.
The series of recent actions by police, vigilantes and the courts have all fit into an so-called "law and order" culture that too willingly violates, imprisons, criminalizes and humiliates our own citizens. Yet, both holidays remind us that "law" isn't always right and "order" isn't always just.
What both Moses and Jesus were up to is far more radical than most protest today. Today most of us try to fix a system; they, more like the spirit of the hard-core Occupiers, want to reject the system completely. Many of us are willing to vote for change within a lethargic structure. Very few of us would be willing to challenge or leave that structure entirely.
Those radical philosophies should remind us to be bolder in our demands for change. And the lessons of the holidays should also remind us to demand restraint, respect and a truer understanding of justice from those "law and order" actors in our society.